by Philip Galyon
Hello! My name is Philip Galyon and am a second year graduate resident at the Center for Youth Ministry Training. I serve as the youth minister at First UMC in West Memphis, Ark. I also believe that my role at FUMC WM is to be a minister to the parents of youth and to support and equip them as they try to raise their teenagers in a Christian environment.
I am originally from Chattanooga, Tenn. and went to college at Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, Tenn. I first heard about CYMT when Deech Kirk taught one of my youth ministry classes. Deech and I saw each other again at the National Youth Workers Convention in Nashville during my junior year of college, and it was then that God began to plant the seed of CYMT in my life. I was debating on whether I wanted to go to another seminary and be ordained as an elder in the United Methodist Church or whether I wanted to be ordained as a deacon and apply to the CYMT program.
The summer between my junior and senior years of college, I worked for a mission organization called Youthworks! I was the speaker and worship leader for the Youthworks site in San Francisco. The entire summer I was struggling with the path God wanted to me take. One night a youth group from San Diego called me into their meeting room. This particular group has a tradition in which each individual takes a piece of a large cloth and gives it to the person who made the biggest impact on their lives during their time in San Francisco. The youth group gave me the entire piece of cloth, signed with their names. Their names were signed on the cloth. The youth director then looks me in the eye (without knowing my struggle of where God was leading me) and said, “God has built you for youth ministry. NEVER forget your calling!” All I could do in that moment was be humbled by Christ. My summer of searching had finally come to an end. I applied in November of 2011 to CYMT and was accepted a few weeks after that.
Coming into CYMT, I had to start fresh. I had to leave all of my friends, family, and serious girlfriend behind in the central and eastern parts of Tennessee. By nature, I am an outgoing person and like to be around people. The first few months were tough for me as I was trying to make friends in the West Memphis area. Feelings of loneliness set in and that caused me to stress out. One of my weaknesses is when I get nervous or stressed, eating becomes my outlet. I gained roughly 40 pounds in my first four months in West Memphis. Then in January I gained another 20 pounds after my relationship with my girlfriend ended. I felt more alone than I ever have in my entire life. I was numb and didn’t know whom else to turn to, so I turned to food. I realized I was becoming more and more unhealthy by the day but honestly, I did not care. I have always been a “bigger guy” my entire life. Health was something that never crossed my mind.
Then on the first CYMT retreat of the 2013 spring semester, God broke me. During our Spiritual Formation class, we were asked to share our thoughts on how God views our health and how that can impact us not only as youth ministers but as humans in general. As I was reading my paper, the feelings of loneliness, guilt, anger, shame, and inadequacy came to the surface. I knew in that moment that something had to change. Other people noticed as well. Within a week of that retreat, my pastor sat me down and had a conversation with me about my weight. He was genuinely concerned about me and wanted to know if there was anything that he could do to help. In that moment, I was angry, but promised him that I would try and live a healthier lifestyle. Three days later during a coaching meeting, my coach Kris Konsowitz and Deech Kirk sat down with me and had another conversation about my weight. They told me they loved me and were truly concerned about my health. They wanted me to feel better and be a more effective youth minister. Kris and Deech then laid out some suggestions and an action plan in which I was to find ways to start living a healthier lifestyle, both physically and emotionally. I was then told that my pastor and FUMC West Memphis would PAY IN FULL for me to go see a personal trainer three times a week. That gave me motivation because it showed that the Body of Christ truly cared about me.
Through the personal trainer, I was able to be connected with a nutritionist. I was also asked to go see a Stephen Minister for my emotional health. I started that routine of February 11, 2013. I weighed in that day at 386 pounds. As I write this, I can tell you that I have lost 56 pounds through the help of the personal trainer and nutritionist. My goal is to lose 100 pounds before October 11. My end goal is to be around 180-170. I have a long way to go, but God has given me the strength to be persistent in this healthy lifestyle endeavor. Since visiting the Stephen Minister once a week since February, God has given me a peace about the breakup. It has been great to have someone that is there to listen to me and hear my raw emotions, no matter what I am feeling. I am in a much better place (both physically and emotionally) that I was five months ago. I am thankful for my CYMT family and my church family who have walked with me through this journey. They have never given up on me. Through this entire process I have seen how CYMT is not just a Master’s Program; the staff and other graduate residents REALLY care about you as an individual.
Something exciting is happening at FUMC WM: CYMT is placing another graduate resident at here this fall. I am VERY excited to have Jayna Leitze be added to our church staff as a Co-Youth Director. Her skill set is different from mine, and we will be able to work efficiently as a team. This will allow me to spend more time with our progressing youth praise band, as well as starting small groups and gender specific ministries at FUMC WM. Jayna brings a lot of talents to our church and I am excited to do ministry with her!
My experience with CYMT thus far has been nothing short of a blessing. I love being around people who have the same passion for youth ministry that I do. I am encouraged by everyone in the program and have benefited the most from our weekly Soul Tending time. I am also blessed with having Kris Konsowitz as my coach. She has been a valuable asset to me and has given me great advice throughout this journey.
Philips’ senior pastor, Rev. David Moseley, says, “We are blessed by Philip’s spirit and his commitment. He has a great heart, and this is evident in how he relates to people of all ages. His love for youth manifests itself in a ‘righteous jealousy’ for each and every student. He more than cares for them; he is willing to fight for them. We are grateful to have him on staff at FUMC West Memphis!”
Olivia Keffer and Makenzie Knowlden have been friends since the beginning of their CYMT graduate residence journey, and this friendship has turned out to be one of the things that helped them make it to graduation day. Their story is one of affirming fellowship between two women who, despite living in different cities, helped each other answer their call to youth ministry.
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The Center for Youth Ministry Training (CYMT) recently received a $1.19MM grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., to fund the next phase of the Innovation Laboratory. The grant will enable CYMT to strengthen the Innovation Lab by building on what we learned from our original cohorts and tweaking our process and strategy for greater impact.